From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Fragile peace is currently pervading Ibarapa land. The residents of the area have not been sleeping with their two eyes closed. They are predominantly crop farmers, and they have issues with Fulani herdsmen that live in Ibarapa, which is made up of seven towns of Eruwa, Lanlate, Igbo-Ora, Idere, Aiyete, Tapa and Igangan.
The towns spread across three local government areas of Ibarapa East with headquarters in Eruwa, Ibarapa Central with headquarters in Igbo-Ora, and Ibarapa North with headquarters in Aiyete. The Ibarapa land has been heavily hit by incessant kidnapping for ransom, killings, rape, destruction of farmland and armed robbery.
The major unrest came when the popular Yoruba activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, fondly called Sunday Igboho, visited Ibarapa on Friday January 15, this year, and gave a seven-day quit notice to Fulani herdsmen living and rearing their cattle in Ibarapa. The news immediately went viral. The visit brought the happening in Ibarapa land to global attention.
He met differently with monarchs in the towns, asked them what they wanted as a permanent solution to the crisis in the area. The monarchs said they did not want herdsmen in Ibarapa any longer. After hearing from the kings and the people of Ibarapa, he went to Igangan to have a meeting with the Sarkin Fulani of Igangan and Oyo State, Alhaji Abdulkabir Saliu, on how to ensure that the kidnapping, killings and destruction of farms would stop.
On the expiration of the ultimatum, Igboho went to Igangan to address the people of Ibarapa land. After he left the place, some youths reportedly went to the settlement of the Sarkin Fulani in Igangan and burnt his house, 11 cars and other buildings in the settlement. The turn of event made a palpable fear to permeate the entire land that Fulani herdsmen could strike back.
The situation made many people to shelve their journey to Ibarapa until the security issue in the land has been totally brought under control. A number of people have also been entertaining the fear that a journey to Ibarapa land is tantamount to a suicide mission. In the midst of the palpable fear, this reporter travelled to Ibarapa on Wednesday January 27 to assess the situation in the area. He observed that the security situation in Ibarapa is not as terrible as it is being painted to the outside world. Residents of the communities were going about their normal business activities. But they seemed to have prepared for any eventualities.
Heavy presence of policemen, Amotekun Corps and local vigilante were sighted at strategic points along the road from one place to the other. The reporter visited Eruwa, Igbo-Ora, Idere and Aiyete. At Eruwa, students of Adeseun Ogundoyin Campus, were seen on campus, going about without any fear. The Eruwa town was also peaceful, though a drive round the town showed that security of the town has been beefed up.
In Igbo-Ora, Yoruba and Fulani women were sighted at a filling station, selling fresh and fried cheese as well as other snacks to people. The town of Igbo-Ora was also peaceful. But security of the town has also been strengthened. A military checkpoint was seen at Idere and local security operatives were also sighted in different places.
In Aiyete, this reporter met with some local farmers and traditional rulers, who insisted that the Fulani herdsmen on their land must vacate their land. They described their relationship, as that of a cat and a mouse saying the two of them cannot live together. They insisted that crop farmers and Fulani herdsmen could not live together because cows would always destroy their cassava, maize, cocoa, water melon and so on.
Odomofin of Aiyete speaks
The Odomofin of Aiyete, Chief Saubana Omileke Oyewole, alleged that some days after Sunday Igboho as well as the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Ngozi Onadeko and a delegation of the state government led by the Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde on Security Matters, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, held a meeting with stakeholders in Igangan towards achieving peace, some Fulani herdsmen set ablaze about 10 acres of cashew farm, near Wakili Fulani village, in Kajola area of Aiyete in Ibarapa North Local Government.
The farm, as gathered, was set ablaze following a visit to the Fulani settlement in Aiyete by some Yoruba youths, who were not satisfied with activities of the Fulani herders. Seven youths reportedly went to the Fulani settlement to inform Wakili, the leader of Fulani in the area about unholy activities of his children and invited him to the palace of a traditional leader in the town.
The cashew farm in the vicinity of Wakili village was reportedly set ablaze, which prompted the community leaders to send seven youths to the Wakili village. The Odomofin of Aiyete said the farm that was destroyed belongs to his elder brother. He also alleged that apart from Sarkin Fulani that lived in Igangan, another Fulani, that people should watch out for is Wakili. He said Wakili is a Bororo variant of Fulani, while Sarkin Fulani is Baruku. He alleged further that Wakili has also committed many atrocities against local farmers in Aiyete, especially in the past five years.
He stated that way Fulani people have been destroying their farmland, and their body language showed to the people that the herders are probably ready for war. He said: “I have been appealing to my people to calm down and respect the rule of law for peaceful co-existence of the two ethnic groups.Wakili and his boys have also been going around with AK-47 rifles to intimidate people Ayete.
“It is true that our people went there but God protected them. Though they shot them, but the bullets never penetrate. Those who went to the farm that day were capable. They set our cashew farm ablaze and that was why our youths went there to ask why they burnt our farm. That was when they shot them. The youths had to leave immediately because we didn’t send them there to fight.
“The cashew farm has been there for the past 12 years. We made at least, N1million in the farm every year. Those who shot them are Wakili boys. The entire farm has been burnt. We are sure that Wakili boys set our farm ablaze.
“Those people are using AK-47 rifles. They have been on our land for the past 18 years. Nobody give them the portion of land they are occupying. When I saw him on my land 18 years ago, I challenged him and he said the whole land belongs to God. I said I know God owns the land but he would be paying me annual rent but as we speak, he never paid me anything. That was why I went to court but court didn’t give us judgment till date.
“The judge invited us to his office and advised that we should settle amicably. When we got home, I invited him and his lawyer and we agreed to give him another land but till now, he never moved to the new site and he didn’t pay for the space he is occupying.
“Our people are now buying food from these Fulani because they cannot farm again. Their cows would eat up all our farms and would not touch their own farms. We now buy food from them. They also burgled my daughters shop at Konko Market. We met their motorcycle at the shop after they had burgled it. They also burgled another shop last night. They kidnap, rape our ladies and even kill our people.
“They are ready for war, and we are only trying to manage the situation. We are only being patient because of the rule of law. Even, if they have more than AK-47, they cannot conquer us, but we only respect government. The respect for the government is the reason we are begging the government to intervene now before it goes out of hands.
“Police have not been fair to us. Whenever we take Fulani to the station, police would ask us to settle it among ourselves. If they destroy like one acre of farm, they may resolve to pay us N5,000. We even showed the Commissioner of Police last Sunday when she visited Igangan. She asked us to compile them and bring them to Ibadan.”
Local farmers count losses
Local farmers also spoke to Saturday Sun. They count their losses. Munirudeen Olagoke, said: “About four years ago, I planted cassava on seven acres of land. I have two wives and 10 children. The cows destroyed the cassava. They ate everything. I reported the cases on many occasions, even to the Sarkin Fulani, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir. He said I should be patient. After that, I met cows on my farm again. I was angry, which made me to attack one of the cows with my cutlass. The Fulani got me arrested by the police.
“I paid N85,000 as compensation to the Fulani. I paid the money to the Sarkin Fulani. But I was not compensated for the cassava I planted on seven acres of land, destroyed by their cows. The Sarkin Fulani initially said I should pay N350,000 for the injured cow. We begged him before he eventually collected N85,000 from me. The cow did not die, though it could not walk again. The Fulani came back in the evening and they took it away. I learnt they sold it. Now, I cannot farm again.
Another farmer, David Olawoore, said: “We cannot plant again. Cows and herdsmen destroyed my cocoa farm. If you harvest cassava, before you get a pick-up van to convey it from the farm, the Fulani would bring their cows and eat everything or large portion of the harvest.” In the same vein, Samuel Bamidele, recounted: “I am a cocoa farmer, and I also plant cassava, maize and cashew. Cows have destroyed my cocoa farm many times. The herdsmen would use their cutlasses to cut off branches of cocoa trees on the grounds that they did not want the cows to get their horns hooked to the branches. When cows are walking in cocoa farm, they would use their body to shake the cocoa trees and unripe cocoa would fall off. It is a loss to us. If you plant pineapple and the herdsmen pass through the place, they would use their cutlasses to cut them off, whether ripe or unripe.
“I used to sell about four to five full loads of pick-up vans of cassava annually. A full load is about N250,000. If I sell four loads of pick-up vans, that will be N1million. I cannot engage in such farming again. When this Wakili just came, his wives would come and buy cassava flour from us. Now, we buy cassava flour from them. The Fulani now eat amala and pounded yam very well.
“Now, we want the government to know that we cannot allow a cat and mouse to live together. One will kill the other. Cows and farms cannot co-exist. They should vacate our land. They came from somewhere. They should return to where they came. It has been from one crisis to the other in the past 20 years.”
Kolajo Jimoh also recounted: “I plant cocoa, cashew, cassava, yam, pineapple and maize. The herdsmen have been using cows to destroy my farm. If you just planted yam,the Fulani young boys would use arrows to remove them from the heaps and go away with them. If you have yet-to-be harvested banana or plantain in your farm, these Fulani would go there, cut the banana trees and would either give the banana or plantain to the cows or they would go away with them. If they get to your cassava farm, they would uproot the cassava and cut the tubers into pieces for the cow to eat. There was a crisis one day and, in the process, one Yoruba boy cut one of the tyres of a motorcycle owned by a Fulani, the police arrested us. And we bought a new tube and tyre, and fixed the motorcycle. After that, with the support of the police, Sarkin Fulani also collected N50,000 as compensation from us.”
Mudashiru Amidu also said of the herdsmen: “When they just arrived, we thought they would be our friends. But they have turned to our enemies. They did not want us to exist. They want hunger to kill us. Some of our children and Fulani children are friends. One day, a Yoruba child followed his friend to Gaa, a Fulani settlement, and he plucked one maize from their farm. The Fulani got him arrested and his father paid N10,000 as compensation. But if their children come to this place, we would give them food and they would eat. No problem. Now, it is so disheartening that we can no longer walk at night.
“I used to be a commercial driver and I got my first Driver’s Licence in 1973. But things were difficult. So, I returned to the village. With profits I made from farming, I sent my children to higher institutions, which I could not afford when I was into commercial driving. But things have changed now. I can no longer do farming because of Fulani herdsmen. I cannot afford to sponsor my children in tertiary institution; where will I get money for school fees and handouts. This is a recipe for crisis. Many farmers are suffering the same fate like me. So, we are tired.”
The Baale of Ododi in Aiyete, Chief Babatunde Samuel, stated that “The Bororo have tormented us too much in the past 10 years. We have Abaku Fulani and the Bororo Fulani. The Bororo should leave us to farm peacefully in Ibarapa. They should return to where they came from.” To Omileke Gafar, he said: “Initially, we did not have problems with the first set of Fulani that settled on our land. The first set is Abaku. But problem started when Bororo also came. Then, the Abaku started doing the same things that Bororo are doing. The farmers are now angry. The Fulani children also devised other means to torment us. If a farmer harvested cassava in his farm, gathered everything on a spot, and left the farm to get a pick-up van, before his return, Fulani children would go there, put poison on the cassava and they would allow cows to eat it. Then, they would go to the police station and said the farmer had killed their cows. The police would be on their side and the innocent farmer would be made to pay for the cow.”
The chairman, Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) in Kajola area of Aiyete, Saheed Adebisi, also said: “I combine okada riding with farming. If the government wants peace, they should separate us from Fulani herdsmen.”
The Chief Imam, Orile-Omofin, Alagbaa, Abdulsalam Jinadu, also told Saturday Sun: “The hospitality of Yoruba has become a big problem for us now. There should have been war. But Odomofin has been the one saying we must follow the path of the law. But the police are not helping matters. They have always been supporting the Fulani. But it is a blatant lie that Sunday Igboho was waging war against the Muslims. He came to liberate us from the burden of Fulani. What is happening is not about being a Muslim or Christian. The crisis is against both Muslims, Christians and traditionalists. We are all here and are all farmers.”
Pa Ogunfemi Ezekiel stated that the local farmers “have been mentioning Wakili and Sarkin Fulani. If cows destroy your farm and you inform the police, the Fulani would offer to pay N1,000 or N2,000 and at most N5,000 for acres of farm. It is unfair.” Azeez Ogundamilare, stated further that the local farmers “don’t want fight and we are not afraid of fight. If we reported to Sarkin Fulani that their cows have destroyed our farm, he would on many occasions, ask us to point out the particular cows that grazed on our farm. How do we do that?”
Jacob Ogunjinmi also narrated his experience, saying: “The policy of the Federal Government on the diversification of economy into agriculture made me to return to the village in 2018 for farming. I left the auto spare part business in Ibadan for farming. I wanted to make money. In 2019, I planted four cares of cassava. I could not get a basket out of it. Can you imagine that? The same thing happened to my tomatoes. I planted two acres of tomatoes, and I only harvested two baskets. These Fulani herdsmen ravaged everything. So, it dawned on me that these Fulani are dangerous to farming.”
Demands of Ibarapa monarchs
The Ashigangan of Igangan land, Oba Abdul-Azeez Adewuyi Olaoye, whose son was kidnapped and he paid a ransom of N5million is not also comfortable with the activities of herdsmen in his community. He also denied an allegation that he could not address the issues of herdsmen, because he married a daughter of Sarkin Fulani. He said he had never had affairs or befriended any Fulani woman in his life as being speculated.
“After intervention of government, a week later, they have forgotten the case. I have on several occasions visited the Commissioner of Police to complain but it yielded no result. When one of my chiefs had issues with Fulani, we went to police and as we speak, we have not heard anything about the outcome of the case. Our people cannot go to farm again.
“When our wives are coming from farm, they would sleep with many of them. On the cow market that was closed, we traditional rulers in Ibarapa land agreed with government to close down the markets because of the kidnapping, rape, and killing of our people by Fulani people. That is where they use as hideouts.
“Now that our subjects are adamant that they don’t want them again, government needs to act now. There must be lasting solution to it. If they are ready to live peacefully with our people, maybe our people may have a rethink. But for now, I don’t have option than to support my people. I support whatever they want because we are all residents of Igangan.”
On the allegation of marrying a daughter of Sarkin Fulani, the monarch said: “It is a lie. I didn’t marry Fulani. My wife is from Aiyete, and her name is Afusat. Her father is from Aiyete and her mother is from Idere. I don’t have any relationship with Fulani in my life. I never dated Fulani woman before.
“I don’t have even a chicken with them, let alone buying cows and putting them in their care. We have heard about some of the atrocities committed by Sarkin Fulani, Saliu Abdul-Kadir. But he was not caught red handed. We couldn’t act. Whenever we report his men to him as the leader of Fulani people, he would defend them that they didn’t know anything about it.
“I have told him to leave even before Igboho came to Igangan because I don’t want crisis in Igangan but he didn’t leave. This is because of what people are saying about him. It is true my son was kidnapped. His name is Monsuru. Though he is my brother’s son. He was freed on the fifth day after he was abducted. They trailed him to where he was praying in the mosque. They also pretended praying. We paid ransom to rescue the boy. There are other people kidnapped by this same Fulani people. A boy, Segun Olosun was rescued after paying N15million, seven days later. Those rescued told us that their abductors were Fulani people. Wife of Babaso, a traditional ruler in Igbo-Ora spent four days in kidnappers’ den. The lasting solution is for their leaders to talk to them in the language they understand to live peacefully. Some of them have changed from what they used to be. They have turned themselves to Boko Haram in Yoruba land.”
The Asawo of Aiyete, Oba Emmanuel Okeniyi Borisabunmi, stated: “Whoever that destroys your farm does not want you to eat and if you don’t have food to eat, you are as good as dead while you are still alive. The herdsmen have turned us to buying food from them. Cows never destroyed their farms but usually destroyed our own. The only thing we now do, is farming but,now, we cannot feed ourselves again. The most annoying thing is the way they are kidnapping us.
“My younger brother, Ajani was kidnapped. After three years, we have not seen him. Another one is Yekini; we are yet to see him two years after. So also some of our rich men. They kidnap them and collect money from them. Our people are alleging that we allowed them on our land, that is not correct; nobody allocated land for the Fulani. They only settled wherever they felt it is good for them. All the people arrested for this act are Fulani. We challenge them to bring out Yoruba among them if there is any. As we speak, nobody gave us anything again.
The Elenpe of Tapa, Oba Titiloye Oyekanmi Sunday, also said: “Why won’t Fulani say they would not vacate our land? It’s because of what they are gaining from us when you are collecting N12million, N7million, N3million, and N2million as ransom when you kidnap our people. What do we have to sell here if not our farm produce? They were not born here. They should go back to their states and be kidnapping their own people there. Nigeria belongs to all of us. But if you are in Nigeria, you must abide by the rules and regulations in the society. We are predominantly farmers and the Fulani have been grazing their cattle on our farms. If you obtain loan to farm in Ibarapa, the herdsmen will run you into embarrassing debt.”
Sarkin Fulani speaks
The Sarkin Fulani of Igangan and Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, however, denied the allegations levelled against him. He said he did not connive with criminal elements to kidnap or kill people in Ibarapa land as being alleged.
All the allegations against him, he said, were concocted by Sunday Igboho with the sole purpose of getting the Fulani out of Igangan and other parts of Yoruba land, saying: “I and my family have been living in Igangan for over 50 years without any challenge from anybody, either in Igangan or any other place.
“When a Fulani boy named Omomogeto was reported to me that he raped someone, I told the vigilante to arrest the Fulani boy. When he was arrested, I investigated the matter and discovered that he committed the offence, I handed him over to the family of the victim. Also, a young lady was raped by an indigene of Igangan last year to the extent that the young lady died in Igangan; nothing was done to the man who raped the young lady.
“There was no case of farm destruction reported to me that I will not send people to go and look at the farm that was destroyed. If discovered that it is true, I will order the Fulani to pay money to the farmers, such as the Agoro family in Igangan and many more. I have a record where I am recording the issues affecting the farmers.
“On the issue of killing of one Dr. Aborode, I don’t know anything about it. Where Dr. Aborode was killed is very far from my village. It’s about two hours drive to my village. You will pass through Igangan town before you get to where I am.
“I want the Federal Government to investigate this matter and anyone found guilty should face the law. My houses, 12 vehicles belonging to my children, some visitors and myself were burnt and seven of my people were killed. The corpses of two were yet to be found and some of my animals were carted away.”
Abdulkadir, who put the cost implications of his losses at over N500 million, enjoined the Emirs and other traditional rulers in the 19 northern states to come to the rescue of the Fulani residents in the South-West.
Answering a question, Abdulkadir said: “Given the conspiracy by the police with the natives of Igangan, I and my people will not feel comfortable returning to Igangan. We even learnt that the government had deployed over 200 Amotekun personnel to the forests in Oyo. Who will these Amotekun men meet in the forests other than the Fulani?”